Gold Star Wives helps families of fallen heroes

by Jordan Briley

The Gold Star Wives of America is a nationwide organization that has been active in most communities around the United States for many years. Eleanor Roosevelt was a large part of the start of this organization as a founding member in 1945.

A non-profit military service organization, it was chartered by the U.S. Congress. Most members are widows, widowers, mothers or fathers whose loved ones died while serving in the military.

Because each congressional session brings new legislation pertaining to military survivors, Gold Star members regularly appear before House of Representatives and Senate committees on issues concerning compensation, educational benefits, medical care and other programs that affect military survivors.

In the past few years, the organization’s agenda has included taking on such issues as upholding the constitution and laws of the United States, honoring the memory of those who died in the service of the country and providing benefits of a wholesome life for the children of those who died in service.

According to their mission statement, Gold Star Wives of America believes that only a service spouse understands the sorrow and problems of another service spouse.

For Sharri Briley of Little Rock, president of the La Petite Roche chapter, the Gold Star Wives saved her life. Her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Donovan Briley, was killed in action in 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. A Blackhawk pilot, he was co-piloting a UH-60 helicopter when it was shot down by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade.

Briley said, after her husband’s death, it wasn’t easy adjusting to the civilian life again.

“I was 30 years old and a widow, but my main concern was raising my daughter,” Sharri said.

It wasn’t until 13 years after her husband’s death that she realized she needed to do something to help others in the situation she was in and do something more with her life. She started working again and got involved with Gold Star Wives, and soon she became the president of her chapter and the secretary of the South Central Region, which covers Arkansas, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

“I admired these widows of Gold Star Wives,” Briley said. “It has given me a purpose again.”